US retail sales fizzled in June, falling for the third consecutive month amid lower gasoline prices and as consumers kept a tight hold on their wallets, government data showed Monday.
Retail sales fell 0.5 percent from May, while sales excluding automobiles and parts dropped 0.4 percent, the Commerce Department reported.
Over the April-June period, retail sales were down 0.2 percent from the first quarter, and ex-auto sales were down 0.3 percent.
The June decline in retail and food services sales surprised most analysts, who had estimated on average a 0.2 percent increase last month.
"It may be the hottest summer on record but US retailers are feeling a chill," said Jennifer Lee at BMO Capital Markets.
Lee said the decline was a "not shocking-knock-me-off-my-chair move, considering the headwinds consumers are facing these days -- slower job growth, equity market volatility, negative headlines abound on the European debt crisis and possible tax hikes and more expensive health care premiums."
The data, which are not adjusted for prices, showed gasoline station sales led the declines, slumping 1.8 percent.
Online retailers had the strongest gain, up 0.5 percent. There were slight gains in food and clothing sales.
The second-quarter numbers pointed to tepid economic growth, after the economy grew just 1.9 percent in the first three months of the year. Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of the nation's economic activity.